TNRD Area 'I' director Steve Rice.

TNRD Area 'I' director Steve Rice.

Water systems, Spences Bridge park among challenges for TNRD director

Steve Rice says that he will try again to get approval for a park on the former Spences Bridge Elementary School site.

Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) director Steve Rice (Area “I”) says that one of the biggest challenges for the area in 2016 was water systems.

“When you have water and taxes together, it’s always a challenge,” he notes. “People get passionate when you reach into their pockets. You have to make sure you get the information out there so people know the facts. That’s the best you can do.”

He says that water systems in Walhachin and Spences Bridge are still fairly new, and that an increase in taxes is just starting to show up on tax bills. “There’s a lot of passion around water and taxes.” He adds, however, that Spences Bridge now has some of the best water in the province.

“Lots of people retire here, for the lifestyle and the beautiful location, and they’re looking for good water. It’s very important to people. You have real estate signs that advertise ‘Good water’. We were on 24/7 boil alerts nearly all year round. Now we’ve maybe had two boil alerts in three years, and we have some of the most tested water in the province.”

Rice, now in his second term as a TNRD director, says that another challenge is getting a park in Spences Bridge, on the site of the former elementary school. A referendum on the park in 2014 failed by one vote, but Rice is optimistic about the new attempt. “A park committee was formed, and knocked on every door in the service area. They got 100 signatures of support, so we will bring this forward in 2017. One hundred signatures is an overwhelming mandate to revisit the proposal.”

He says that the money to build the park is available from various sources, including the TNRD, Northern Development Initiative Trust, and the federal and provincial governments, should the proposal be approved.

Rice says that a referendum on the park issue will likely take place in spring 2017.

He feels strongly about a resolution he brought to the TNRD board, which addresses the issue of railways doing track-grinding during fire season in high-risk areas.

“I want them to do it out of the fire season. The data is all there, and we know which areas are high risk.” He would like to see a system where tracks are not ground between Boston Bar and Ashcroft in August.

“The railways said it’s too difficult, but there were four wildfires in Boston Bar and TNRD Area ‘I’ in the last couple of years, three of which were possibly caused by track grinding. I want to raise the issue, as it is getting quite scary.” He hopes to ultimately see the resolution be presented at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference later this year.

Rice is pleased to have been able to put a lot of Area “I” money into the Lytton Legion, which is in the final stages of a total renovation, and towards repairs at the Lytton pool. He points to the renovations and changes at the Walhachin Soldiers Memorial Hall in 2016 and the “Walha-Schindig” held in May—“Another celebration is coming in 2017”—and says that he has committed $10,000 in funding for the McAbee Fossil Beds working group. “They seem to be going in the right direction, and I’m cautiously optimistic it will be a wonderful project; a real game-changer for the area.”

He notes that Spences Bridge now has an electric car-charging station, and that the TNRD was able to provide money for construction of a lookout with a wildlife viewing scope on the site of the old bridge in the town, which was torn down in 2015. “It’s a very exciting project, and was well used this past summer. I’ve heard from locals that it’s the best thing to happen to Spences Bridge in a long time. It’s now a permanent fixture in Spences Bridge, in a perfect location.”

The lookout railings were constructed from material salvaged from the old bridge, and the site has been landscaped, with benches, a picnic table, and water for dogs.

Rice gives a shout-out to the people and organizations that made the lookout possible, including the Ministry of Transportation, the TNRD, Dwayne Rourke and New Horizons for Seniors, Paul Miller, and other local volunteers.

Late in 2016, Rice was voted in as vice-chair of the TNRD for the first time. “It will be interesting to see what the duties include,” he says, noting that one of his new roles will be sitting on the Kamloops Airport Authority board. “I’m interested in learning some new things.”

Among projects he hopes to work on in 2017 include beautification of the frontage road in Spences Bridge; fire protection in Venables Valley and Walhachin; and the setting up of a curbside garbage service in Walhachin. He notes that the closure of the Cache Creek landfill has meant that the TNRD has had to step in to manage waste disposal at the residential drop-off there. “It’s not a big issue, just different. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Rice is also on the board of directors for the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, and is excited about its “Rails to Trails” program, which has developed trails along some of the old Kettle Valley Railway track bed.

“We’ve put in a request for the stretch from Merritt to Spences Bridge to be in the next phase, and I’m excited about the projects along the Kettle Valley.”